News & Reviews Caribbean Turks and Caicos Review: Amanyara, Turks and Caicos

If life is about timing, Amanyara was the perfect place at the worst time.  I wish I could tell you of their brilliant facilities and activities; I wish I could show you the architecture and how it inspired the glorious Amanzoe.  Instead, I will use every one of my 2,000 words simply to gain sympathy for having been ill, as I spent most of my three-night stay passed out, waiting for antibiotics to work faster than cocaine on a bear.  But fear not, I still have thoughts.  Many, many thoughts.

Amanyara is not somewhere I ever found particularly appealing.  But I’m now at that stage of my life where it’s either get angry watching the news, take up gardening or go to Amanyara.  Yes, I’m almost 37.  Being an Aman fan (Amanjunkie?  Too gauche), I’ve always known Amanyara is there, much like we know our grandparents are there, but do we really want to visit?  I couldn’t figure out what it had to offer that the Maldives/Seychelles could not.  Sure, you have the ease of getting there for my American friends, but for us Brits, it’s an 11-hour in-direct flight.  That’s 660 minutes on British Airways, in their old business class configuration, which I hear the United Nations considers worse than cluster bombs.

All I would see when looking at Amanyara are their suites (which they call pavilions) being nearly identical – a view, a pool, or a few extra square meters with a snug is all that changes.  Yet, luckily for us, we didn’t end up in a pavilion.  We received one of the all-time greatest upgrades – from a pool pavilion to a four-bedroom ocean-view villa.  Now this is where people can go, “Yeah, but you’re treated differently because you own a travel company, and you write about it”.  Erm, yep, that is one hundred percent correct.  Isn’t life grand?  Better still: all the Evian water, minibar and snacks are complimentary.  I have truly won at this game we call life.

So instead of complaining about how cramped their 60-70 sqm pavilions are, I can tell you how awesome it is to have four 60 sqm rooms, plus a 20m pool, dining room, living room, cabana, dedicated butler, and chef is.  Write what you know, they say.  I can only tell you from my experience.

Amanyara might only contain 36 pavilions and 20 villas, but the resort is so large and spread out, that rumour has it, Aman invented golf just because Amanyara needed golf buggies.  Set beside the ocean and only 20 minutes from the airport, it might make you think it’s easy to get to, but Providenciales has other ideas.  I was too concerned about whether my life insurance policy was valid if I died on foreign soil to ask Aman if there was anything they could do about it, but I’d have to assume not, as surely it would have been done before.  It has to be the worst airport collection I’ve ever seen.  All you could do was wait for a car to show up in sweltering heat for over ten minutes.  It’s not exactly a VIP service, and I’m in a villa, goddamnit.  A villa I didn’t pay for, but let’s not let facts get in the way of things.

It also took seven days to get a response from guest services.  We were on this trip with friends, who kept pre-warning me about all the expected service issues right after I booked our non-refundable flights.  What a shit friend.  This is why I don’t have any.

Pro-tip: we paid for their VIP customs and immigration service, only to find that the BA flight was the last one of the day and that all it did was slow us down.  Our friends arrived around midday, and the queues were over two hours long.

Villa

They drove us straight to the villa and had a welcome committee greet us.  The room setup gets a big tick from me.  The stay list was perfect; the rooms had everything we requested and an excellent welcome selection of food.  Less welcoming was the food we ordered before arrival.  BA considered afternoon tea a sufficient dinner, so I was ravenous.  We pre-ordered the food, but it somehow took over two hours to arrive.  Good job I wasn’t ill and in need of nutrients.  That would have made it far worse.

Each of the four bedrooms is identical in layout and design, the same as a standard pavilion.  With most of the villas offering tranquillity ponds (aka shallow water), which adds a serene effect and accentuates the design, our villa, Villa #31, went for the less child-drowning design and used grass instead, which they’re 85% less likely to be attacked by a shark.  Two bedrooms are near the villa’s entrance, followed by the living area, which leads through to the pool and the other two rooms on either side of the pool.  Then you have views of the ocean and a whole lotta rocks leading down to a small patch of sand and ocean.  You would hire a lawyer if they called this a beach villa, but those Aman boffins were clever enough not to do that, so having access to a tiny beach was a pleasant surprise.

At the time of writing, the villas are in a strange situation: they’ve not been refurbished, whilst all the pavilions have.  That will change as Amanyara closes during Sep/Oct to rectify this and add more goodies.  But the work is needed, and the wear and tear could be seen.  Based on the pavilions, the improvement is minor but noticeable, mostly around and modernising the bathrooms, including installing Toto-Esq toilets.  Praise the toilet gods.

The rooms are pretty basic, with an open-planned bedroom/bathroom situation.  It’s clear they never expected people to spend much time in the rooms, even though they include TVs – which I failed to get working for my daughter when she woke up at 4 am, so Frozen on the laptop it was for the eighty-seven billionth time.  I spent too much time in the room, knowing that when I came to write this review, I had to be factually correct and gain as much sympathy as possible.  But the outside seating areas around the rooms are where they expect you to spend your time.  Or, the vast living space, the shaded areas by the pool (although the lack of outside fans was annoying) or the ocean-view lounging terrace.

To be completely contradictory, the design feels very basic, but at the same time, the scale of it, particularly the living area, has to be appreciated.  But as Apple has shown, turning the complex into simple is difficult.  What makes the villa so special is not just the space but it’s how it creates an environment perfect for groups and families.  We would spend hours around the pool, either socialising, eating, or just staring at our phones and ignoring each other.  Occasionally even get in the pool because it is heated, and it is awesome.  We ate dinner inside, lunches beside the pool lounging terrace, and breakfast whenever we damn well pleased, thank you very much.

I hope to see them fix some of the issues with the refurb, like lack of plug sockets, poorly designed shower controls, and lack of blinds in the living area (they were lovely and kept taping some up for us, but they really shouldn’t have to) and a terribly placed mosquito net that felt it was going to choke me.   The worst offender was the air conditioning, which sounded like it was having a harder time existing than me.  And the cheap electronic keyboard in the living area, like they couldn’t quite commit to learning.  Come on, guys, where’s my Steinway?  I paid good money not to be here.

Eventually, I felt well enough to do a site inspection, visit all the facilities, and see other pavilions.  You probably will start to feel this review reeking of bias because of the upgrade, but honestly, the pavilions were nowhere near as bad as I expected.  I heard a lot about the pool pavilions having no view of the ocean, and they certainly do not.  Most of them do not.  For me, I’m not bothered.  I live in England, so my idea of a nice view is it rains only half the day.  Trees surround the pool pavilions, so they are highly private.  Whilst not ideal as a family of four, I wouldn’t have been bothered as a couple.

If you’re not near the beach (which we were not), you may find the hassle of getting there a pain, so choose wisely from the resort map.  The only accommodation with direct beach access is the Beach Sala villas.

The dedicated butler and private chef are where you benefit from a villa.  Ok, so the first meal took over two hours to arrive; perhaps the original ingredients were lost, never to be found, somewhere in Bermuda.  Yet it was clear that the chef knew what he was doing, and whilst I didn’t eat much (continue playing that sympathy soundtrack), everything I did was excellent.  The convenience of eating all our meals in the villa and discussing them with a chef was brilliant.

Even better, the service from our butler.  Irene, oh, Irene.  Do come home with me.  You have two butlers, one for the morning shift and another in the evening, with additional help in that time for cleaning the rooms and supporting the butler.  Irene was fantastic – always on it, taking notes and ensuring we were looked after; the support was more miserable.  It was like having your mum around.  Tom, the GM, also dropped by.  I knew him from his days at The Saxon.  He, along with everyone else, was aware I was ill.

It’s not their fault, and nothing they can do about it, but the doctor showed up an hour late to see me whilst charging $550 for the privilege.  I miss European medicine.

A resort rarely holds up this well.  Opening in 2006, Amanyara still looks like a property that few companies would bother putting effort into designing.  That’s a real testament to Jean-Michel Gathy, who would go on to design some beautiful properties, like Amanoi, Aman New York, and Cheval Blanc Randheli.  Whilst Ed Tuttle designed Amanzoe, there’s evident influence.  I kept finding myself impressed by the design and how much they offer.  There’s four tennis courts, pickleball, cornhole, a cinema, a games room, a boxing studio, three boutiques, a beach club, a kids club, a spa, a gym, a bar and a monster long swimming pool.  In classic Aman fashion, it feels impossible to be crowded.  Space is not a limited asset here.

The gym has new TechnoGym equipment, Peloton Bike+, and decent strength equipment.  It’s a good offering.  The spa offers four treatment rooms, a pool, yoga and Pilates.  It might not have any of the new facilities you expect to see in a spa, but once again, they just nailed the design.

Time it right, and there’s a bunch of activities in place, such as the Amanyara Legends Program, where ex-professionals teach you stuff, like how to hit a ball from one place to another, which is what all sports are.  I did not time it right because, in case I failed to mention it, I was not well.

The Kids Club was a weak point and one of the weaker I’ve seen at beach resorts.  It’s a very simple-looking area with a tiny pool, sand pit and playground that isn’t going to get confused for Disneyland.  Outside doesn’t have much shade, whereas inside is mostly for crafts, which older children might enjoy.  Our daughter hasn’t yet turned three, which means it’s not a challenge to tell what she thought of it.  We hired a babysitter (from age five you would not need to), who our child dragged around the resort, and they played on the beach instead.

The facilities are class, but you’re probably here for the pristine, white-sanded beach.  This is where I would love to end with a picture of it, but I was feeling…well, you know already.

The Good

  • Beach
  • Activities
  • An acceptable level of death flies known as mosquitos

The Bad

  • Kids club for younger children
  • Most rooms/villas are not near the beach

The Luxurious

  • Facilities
  • Service / Villa host
  • Food
  • Privacy

Rating

Luxurious

Conclusion

As we left, a colossal procession arrived to wave us off.  I felt like I was off to my own funeral; only this one had people showing up for it.

Amanyara impressed me.  The setting is sublime; the architecture is still in the league where you know it’s an Aman.  The privacy, space, peacefulness, accommodation, food, service, activities, and facilities are brilliant.  It is the best property I’ve stayed in the Caribbean. I have no hesitation in recommending it.

This isn’t just from the excitement of the villa because, at Moskito Island, we had eleven bedrooms, and I definitely was not 175% happier there.  The “but” with Amanyara is the price gap between the pavilions and villas, but with unlimited money printing over the last ten years, even your standard blue-collar worker must be able to afford $10,000/n by now.

Room type: Four-Bedroom Ocean Villa When: July 2023 Rates: from $22,000/n

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 24th Jul '23

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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